Tag Archives: United States

(29) On top of it all: job sprawl

Next bus in forty-four minutes, or fifty-five minutes, except on Sundays or before seven a.m. or after rush hour, …or maybe never!  Typical scheduling for hard pressed working people dependant on Suburbland’s diesel bus dominated public transit.  It’s a wonder anyone can hold down a job in Sprawlville.  Long, multiple-transfer bus rides across Edge Cities in order to hold down some crap job suck the life out of you.  We’ve wondered about the justice of this for some time here at suburban-poverty.com.  Once again the Brookings Institution rides up with the evidence.  God bless Brookings!
Job sprawl and the suburbanization of poverty

Newspaper columnist Heather Mallick recently wrote with some passion about a proposed fare hike for Toronto Transit Commission users.  The TTC was once the envy of many a city but now is badly stressed, barely able to reconcile the urban and suburban needs of riders.  God bless you too, Heather!
Mallick: TTC fare hike like poison for the poor

editor’s note
: it once took us two hours and five minutes to get home from a gig cleaning cars in North York to our place in Parkdale.  We had early signs of hypothermia when we got in the door.  We have not harboured resentment ever since, fuckers.

(26) Suburban homelessness

For most of us, urban street people are generally what comes to mind when we hear the word homeless.  People without secure and reasonable access to permanent places to live populate the suburbs in growing numbers.  They are just less readily visible.  They can include ‘couch-surfing’ young people, tent campers living alongside rivers or in woodlots and people in shelters or living in a motor vehicle.  They are hard to count and hard to bring services to.
Suburban homeless
“Suburban homelessness has its own set of challenges. Suburbs often lack public transportation, shelters, and government assistance agencies. By far the largest hurdle the suburban homeless have to overcome is that they are not supposed to exist.”
Last refuge for the homeless: living in the car
  

(25) Commuting & divorce

Swedish researchers have linked marriage stress and failure with long commutes.  In sociological enquiry of any kind the underlying idea seems to be to constantly generate new questions.  This study does that in droves.  Big mortgages for suburban homes require major time investments in commuting.  Many now live in one suburb and commute to another suburb.  Not easy.
Long commutes bad for marriage
A long commute to work might further job prospects and put more money in the bank but it could also increase the risk for divorce by 40 percent, a new study from Umeå University in northern Sweden shows”


Towards the tail end of the boom the media in North America coined the term “supercommuter” for people cruising as much as ninety minutes each way between home and workplace.  Presumably that was by choice.  Now, the Great Recession seems to be incentivizing some long drives.
Recession breeds wave of supercommuters

(21) Rising inequality: OECD data

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development produces a host of data directly useful for assessing social conditions.  Do we need a supercomputer to connect rising inequality and the stacked economic gains of the rich with suburban poverty and downward mobility?

Notes for individual countries are found on the OECD site (.pdf files):

Better than many for a long time but no reason to be smug: Canada
Faltering after some improvement: United Kingdom
Forget it, only Turkey & Mexico are worse for income inequality: United States
Some improvement but could do better: Australia

(20) Can the middle class & the suburbs be saved?

The mass appearance of one begat the other and so we find the fate of the middle class and the fate of suburban life conjoined in a fashion that would have given Eng and Chang Bunker a good fright.  You could not have had one without the other.  Moving forward into the Long Emergency and a world of expensive petroleum, general resource depletion, traumatic economics, badly impaired credit/financial systems and shock doctrines we may end up losing much of both suburbia and its most loyal customers.  Leave it to The Atlantic Monthly to be a source of timely content for us yet again.
Can the Middle Class Be Saved?
“The Great Recession has accelerated the hollowing-out of the American middle class. And it has illuminated the widening divide between most of America and the super-rich. Both developments herald grave consequences. Here is how we can bridge the gap between us.”Atomic Weapon Test 1940s - Operation CrossroadsElizabeth Warren is an academic expert with a specialty in credit law and consumer debt/bankruptcy issues.  She was in the documentary Maxed Out and the link below takes you to a presentation she gave in 2008.  57 minutes that will open your eyes.  If you have the stomache for the details of the destruction of the middle class in America block out the time.  Seriously, this wonderful, articulate, compassionate and very smart woman should be the president of the USA, not that nice, utterly feckless Obama guy.
The coming collapse of the middle class
YouTube 57:38

(18) Problems, and more problems…

...the sick, sad things you see online!The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine published a paper this July describing problems associated with addiction services in suburban areas.  This is the kind of piece that expands our understanding of what suburban poverty means in a needed, detailed way.  Much of the discussion of low density, ex-urban life focusses on matters of land use, environmental sustainability, energy, politics, taste and aesthetics.  We are now long beyond the point where social realities need to be considered on an equal footing with the physical design of communities.
Suburban Poverty: Barriers to Services and Injury Prevention among Marginalized Women who Use Methamphetamine

(16) Metro Matters [Kneebone & Allard podcast]


The working poor
and immigrants were pulled to the suburbs and the Edge Cites during the real estate boom.  After the crash, these groups are stranded in dispersed locations where social services and jobs tend to be thin on the ground.  Enormous stress is created for vulnerable people when, for example, they try to access food banks on foot or via public transit.  When they get to a resource they may then find it struggling for resources as well.  Rapid growth in suburbia during the boom often resulted in under-funding of social services or reliance on uneven private, charitable efforts.  The perception of poverty as an urban or inner city social ill also distorts responses and, like the Great Recession that sponsors so much of it, is not really going away fast.  This podcast is about 15 minutes and refers to recent Brookings findings.
Next American City » Metro Matters Podcast » The Suburban Poor: An Interview with Elizabeth Kneebone and Scott Allard.

(15) Tipping point: 2008 [The Atlantic Monthly]

It looks like 2008 was the tipping point for suburban poverty.  In that year of crashing global trade and high financial disaster awareness of suburban poverty started going mainstream.  It had always been there of course but joblessness, the mortgage bomb and the high cost of energy mean more people are sharing in it.  Media coverage of reports from the Brookings Institution and ongoing coverage of unemployment and foreclosures made for some grim reading for Americans.  The socio-economic and structural arrangements of suburban living appear to be contracting all over the United States and in other communities around the world.  One of the most substantial pieces representing this awareness of great change ran in The Atlantic Monthly in March of 2008.  This feature article shows just how timely and powerful good magazine journalism can be.  Required reading if you want to know where it’s all going.
The Next Slum? The subprime crisis is just the tip of the iceberg.
Fundamental changes in American life may turn today’s McMansions into tomorrow’s tenements.

(14) Social services & suburban poverty [Brookings paper & University of Chicago]

Brookings Institution has followed its earlier papers on suburban poverty with several worthy efforts.

Below is a link for downloading their October 2010 paper about the difficulties facing social services in suburbia after the economic crash of 2008.  Tough times in America for the working poor: with implications for understanding experiences in other countries including Canada and the UK.  The paper includes statistical evidence on reported incomes and includes ‘on-the-ground’ impressions from three major urban-suburban agglomerations.  Part of the ‘Metropolitan Opportunity’ series.
Suburban safety nets rely on relatively few social services organizations, and tend to stretch operations across much larger service delivery areas than their urban counter­parts.
This second link, to a University of Chicago page, includes video from one of the authors and some links to mainstream media coverage.
Poverty grows in suburbs, but social services don’t keep up